Trump, Biden To Visit 9/11 Memorial Site

This combination of file photos shows US President Donald Trump (L) speaking to the media prior to departing from the White House in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2020. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB, Ronda Churchill / AFP

 

President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden will today visit the crash site in the key election state of Pennsylvania of one of the planes hijacked during the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

Both men will seek to take advantage of the solemn moment to appear as leaders seeking to heal a deeply divided nation.

For the 19th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda terror attacks, Biden — who has recently stepped up his campaign after weeks of keeping a low profile due to the coronavirus pandemic — will make two public appearances.

Friday morning, he will be in New York City for the annual event honoring the almost 3,000 people who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Then he will travel to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where an airliner crashed after the passengers tried to wrest control of the plane from the Al-Qaeda hijackers.

Biden is not expected to speak at the Ground Zero ceremony in Manhattan, an event traditionally reserved for families of the victims, who this year have pre-recorded their contributions.

His mere presence, however, will attract attention at an event that is broadcast live on the main US television networks and is punctuated by minutes of silence, the first one at 8:46 am (1246 GMT), the time that the first plane hit one of the Twin Towers.

Trump will be absent from the memorial in his native New York, but he will be represented by Vice President Mike Pence.

The Republican president could steal the show from Biden, as he will be at a commemoration in Shanksville, some 300 miles to the west of New York.

There is no chance of the two rivals crossing paths in Pennsylvania: Trump and his wife Melania are due to leave Shanksville in the morning after the memorial, while Biden and his wife Jill will not arrive at the site until the afternoon.

‘Scoring points’

Neither of these appearances will feature any of the political showmanship according to Robert Shapiro, a political scientist at Columbia University. The 9/11 ceremonies are traditionally “free of rhetoric, dedicated to paying tribute to victims” of the attacks, he said.

The ceremonies will nevertheless be closely followed by the media, and offer Biden and Trump a chance to “show their leadership and empathy.”

“There will be a temporary silencing of the more vitriolic rhetoric they are using against each other,” Shapiro said.

The choice of both candidates to show up in Pennsylvania, an important state to win in the presidential election, illustrates the “obvious calculations” their advisors have made.

Long a Democratic stronghold and Biden’s home state, Pennsylvania swung narrowly to Trump in the 2016 election, helping him secure his surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Polls show Trump and Biden nearly even in Pennsylvania, and Democrats hope to win the state back in the November 3 vote.

But if the somber commemorations mark a “truce,” it is likely to be a short-lived one, as was the case in 2016.

Clinton took part in the New York memorial but left the event early because she was feeling ill. Her doctor later revealed he had diagnosed her two days earlier with pneumonia, which she had kept secret.

Trump leaped on the incident and for weeks mercilessly mocked his rival’s health.

AFP

Border Wall Has ‘Stopped Everything’ Including COVID-19, Says Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bill singing ceremony with his economic team in the Rose Garden at the White House June 05, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House June 05, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Donald Trump paid a visit to Arizona on Tuesday to mark the completion of hundreds of miles of the wall along the US-Mexico border, claiming it has “stopped everything” including COVID-19.

“Our border has never been more secure,” said Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a linchpin of his 2016 presidential campaign.

“This is the most powerful and comprehensive border wall structure anywhere in the world,” Trump said at a roundtable briefing in Yuma on border security before a visit to a section of the wall. More than 200 miles (322 kilometres) of the wall has been built.

“It has technology that nobody would even believe, between sensors and cameras and everything else,” he said.

Trump said at least 450 miles of wall would be completed by the end of the year and “we’ll be very close to 500 miles.”

He also said the border wall has cut back on human trafficking and drug smuggling from Mexico and helped prevent a “coronavirus catastrophe on the southern border.”

“It stopped COVID, it stopped everything,” Trump said.

The past two months have seen the “lowest number of illegal border crossings in many years,” he added.

Trump’s visit to Arizona comes as the southwest state reported a record 3,591 cases of COVID-19 and a high of 42 deaths.

The trip to Arizona is taking place three days after Trump visited Tulsa, Oklahoma, to hold his first campaign rally since the pandemic began.

AFP

Court Set To Rule On Trump’s Attempt To Stop Aide’s Damning Book

File Photo: US President Donald Trump and his former aide John Bolton.

 

A judge weighed President Donald Trump’s last-ditch bid Friday to stop former top aide John Bolton’s bombshell book from publication, but with much of the damning contents already out there was little hope for the White House.

“It certainly looks difficult to me about what I can do about those books all over the country,” Judge Royce Lamberth said at a hearing in Washington, DC, federal court, referring to copies of “The Room Where it Happened” that have already been distributed and dissected in the media.

The Justice Department had sought the emergency hearing to halt the official publication on Tuesday. But shipments have already been made to warehouses across the United States and other countries, while Bolton himself has embarked on a series of media interviews to promote the work.

“The horse, as we used to say in Texas, seems to be out of the barn,” Lamberth said.

The judge did not say when he would rule on the government’s request for an injunction.

The government argues that Bolton, the ex-national security advisor, violated secrecy laws because “The Room Where it Happened” did not get proper vetting.

Deputy assistant attorney general David Morrell said Bolton agreed not to publish a book with classified information “without written authorization.”

“In exchange for money he has broken that promise,” Morrell said. “He should not be rewarded.”

Bolton’s side argues for freedom of speech, saying that the manuscript was in fact put through extensive examination by the White House, which simply didn’t like the contents.

Trump ‘Pleading’ With China

The book is Bolton’s portrait of Trump after seeing him up close for 17 months before the former aide was ousted in September.

The picture — which Trump says is “fiction” — is ugly.

According to Bolton, a lifelong Republican who stands firmly on the right of the party, Trump is not “fit for office.”

He describes Trump “pleading” with Chinese President Xi Jinping during trade negotiations to boost his chances of re-election this November.

And he claims that Trump, a real estate tycoon who never held office before winning the White House, was so ignorant that he thought Finland was part of Russia.

Bolton also backs up the allegations at the center of Trump’s impeachment last year that he pressured Ukraine to try and dig up dirt to weaken his Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden.

Not only this, but Trump committed other “Ukraine-like transgressions” in his wielding of foreign policy for personal gain, Bolton alleges.

The sensationally blunt appraisal from someone who had that level of access has rocked the White House when the president is already mired in criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and race tensions.

Bolton finds himself shunned both by Republicans, who see him as a saboteur, and by Democrats, who blame him for not coming forward earlier — particularly when he had a chance to testify in the impeachment.

The backlash from Trump loyalists and the president himself has been savage. The government could still seek to force Bolton to surrender proceeds or even file charges against him.

Trump called him “a sick puppy,” a “boring fool” and a “washed-up guy.”

“Said all good about me, in print, until the day I fired him,” he tweeted Wednesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo branded Bolton “a traitor.”

“John Bolton is spreading a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths and outright falsehoods,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Trump Threatens To Pull Out Of WHO Over COVID-19 Response, China

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in New Delhi. Mandel NGAN / AFP.

 

President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the World Health Organization, accusing it of botching the global coronavirus response and of being a “puppet of China.”

The American leader has been locked in a bitter spat with Beijing, alleging it covered up the initial outbreak in central China late last year before the disease unleashed death and economic devastation across the planet.

More than 317,000 people have died of COVID-19 out of nearly 4.8 million infections worldwide, and governments are scrambling to contain the virus while seeking ways to resuscitate their hammered economies.

With more fatalities and cases in the United States than any other country by far, under-pressure Trump has blamed the WHO for not doing enough to combat its initial spread.

“They’re a puppet of China, they’re China-centric to put it nicer,” he said on Monday at the White House. “They gave us a lot of bad advice.”

Trump had already suspended US funding to the UN body, and after his White House comments, he tweeted a letter he had sent to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus threatening to make that freeze permanent.

“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world,” the letter said.

“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” it added, giving the body 30 days to show “substantive improvements.”

Before the threat, the WHO had promised an independent review of its pandemic response.

READ ALSO:  WHO To Review COVID-19 Response As Trump Renews Attack

Beijing has furiously denied the US allegations that it played down the threat, and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated at the World Health Assembly that his nation had been “transparent” throughout the crisis.

As he launched his latest attack on China, Trump also dropped a bombshell saying he was taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that his own government’s experts have said is not suitable for fighting the coronavirus.

“I take a pill every day,” said the president, adding that he is using it because he has “heard a lot of good stories.”

– ‘A test from God’ –

Experts have warned that the social distancing measures that have impacted more than half of humanity will remain necessary to stop the virus until a vaccine or viable medical treatment is available.

Development work on a prophylactic is under way at breakneck speed around the world, and results from a trial in the United States sparked optimism on Monday.

Early — and small — clinical trials of a vaccine by US firm Moderna showed encouraging results, with recipients showing an immune response similar to people recovering from COVID-19. It will begin a larger second-phase trial soon.

In China, meanwhile, scientists at Peking University have said they are developing a drug that can help stop the pandemic without a vaccine by using antibodies that can neutralize the virus.

They are planning clinical trials for the treatment, and are hoping to have the drug available later this year and in time for any potential winter outbreak.

Authorities around the world are keeping an eye on such breakthroughs as the virus continues on its destructive path, with many poorer nations now seeing a dramatic rise in infections even as the caseload eases in more developed parts of the world like Europe.

In Indonesia, gravediggers at a cemetery earmarked for COVID-19 victims in the capital Jakarta are struggling to keep up with the number of corpses arriving every day, trying not to touch the bodies and lessen the chance of getting infected themselves.

“I’ve been digging graves for 33 years now and I’ve never been this tired before,” said gravedigger Minar.

“This is probably a test from God.”

– Violence in Chile –

The vast economic damage caused by the virus has led to unprecedented emergency stimulus measures by governments and central banks, and the latest came from Europe where France and Germany laid out a half-trillion-euro fund.

The hard-hit continent has seen deaths and hospitalizations drop in recent days, sparking optimism about a post-pandemic recovery.

The daily death count in the United States has also slowed over the last couple of days, as all 50 states began easing lockdown measures to varying degrees.

But other parts of the world — especially developing countries — are only just starting to feel the full force of the virus.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday many governments had ignored WHO recommendations.

“As a result, the virus has spread across the world and is now moving into the Global South, where its impact may be even more devastating,” he warned.

Already, Brazil has overtaken Britain to have the third-highest number of infections in the world with around 255,000 confirmed cases, and the death toll in Latin America and the Caribbean has topped 30,000.

In Chile, where the government has imposed strict distancing measures in some areas after a dramatic rise in cases, the economic pressure from lockdowns was brought into sharp focus as violence erupted in a crowded, poor area on the outskirts of the capital Santiago.

Angry residents wielding sticks erected barricades and threw rocks at riot police, who fought back with tear gas and water cannon.

“It is not because of the quarantine,” resident Veronica Abarca told AFP.

“It is aid, food, what people are asking for right now.”

AFP

Trump Backtracks On Scrapping Of White House Coronavirus Task Force

FUS President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. Trump is declaring coronavirus a national emergency. SAUL LOEB / AFP.

 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to backtrack on plans announced the previous day to shut down the task force advising him on the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House’s earlier suggestion that the high-level team could close around the start of June was Trump’s latest signal that he thinks it’s time to move on from the health crisis and reopen the economy.

But in a series of tweets Wednesday, he said the task force had been so successful that it “will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”

The president, however, said that he could “add or subtract people” to the group, which suggested the situation remained fluid.

Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the task force, said Tuesday he was “starting to look at the Memorial Day window, early June window” for shutting it down. That holiday falls on May 25.

READ ALSO: Trump Relaunches Campaign With Vaccine Promise, Vision Of ‘Incredible’ Future

The coronavirus task force has spearheaded the complex response to the fast-spreading virus, which has already killed more than 70,000 Americans.

The group coordinates between medical institutes, political staff and state governors, some of whom have spent weeks frantically trying to help overwhelmed hospitals.

The task force also drew on medical experts to formulate national recommendations on social distancing that led to the economic shutdown.

Members of the task force gave daily press conferences meant to inform the nation on the latest status of the pandemic. But they were often overtaken by Trump’s own freewheeling question-and-answer sessions and ended more than a week ago.

Trump says that while he wants a “safe” reopening, the hardship caused by the economic shutdown is the main threat to the United States.

“We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years,” he said Tuesday while on a trip to a mask-making factory in Arizona.

He conceded that some people would be “badly affected” by loosening the practice of social distancing.

Critics say that the health situation remains far from secure and that Trump is rushing to try and boost the devastated economy in time for his difficult reelection battle in November.

AFP

Trump Signs Executive Order To Keep Meat Processing Plants Open

In this file photo US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a "Keep America Great" campaign rally at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey, January 28, 2020.
In this file photo, US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up during a “Keep America Great” campaign rally at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey, January 28, 2020.

 

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order compelling meat packing plants to stay open, despite a string of coronavirus deaths, in a bid to secure US food supplies, the White House said Tuesday.

“President Trump is signing an Executive Order providing the authority to ensure the continued supply of beef, pork, and poultry to the American people,” the White House said in a statement.

“Under the order, the Department of Agriculture is directed to ensure America’s meat and poultry processors continue operations uninterrupted to the maximum extent possible.”

The statement added that the processing plants will be fully compliant with the CDC guidelines on health and safety during the pandemic.

Trump had said earlier in the White House that the details of order were being drawn up for signing but gave no specifics.

The facilities, where animals are slaughtered and processed into food sold in shops, have long struggled with safety and sanitary issues.

Facing alarming rates of the novel coronavirus among workers in the often tightly packed work spaces, some suppliers have closed down.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Trump Speaks With Buhari, ‘To Send Ventilators’ – Lai Mohammed

As warnings mount that stores will run out, Trump will invoke the Defense Production Act to compel the meatpacking businesses to keep working.

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the nation’s largest meatpacking union, said more safety precautions were needed.

“At least 20 meatpacking workers have tragically died from coronavirus while more than 5,000 workers have been hospitalized or are showing symptoms,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said in a statement.

“While we share the concern over the food supply, today’s executive order to force meatpacking plants to stay open must put the safety of our country’s meatpacking workers first,” he added.

“Simply put, we cannot have a secure food supply without the safety of these workers.”

Last week, meatpacking giant Tyson Foods announced the temporary closure of its plant in Pasco, Washington state, which it says usually produces enough beef in a day for four million people.

A big pork plant in South Dakota run by Smithfield Foods and two JBS cattle slaughterhouses are among the others to have shut their doors.

AFP

Biden To Sanders: ‘Together We Will Beat Donald Trump’

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020, Democratic presidential hopefuls Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (L) and former Vice President Joe Biden gesture as they participate in the tenth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina. PHOTO: JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden reached out to rival Bernie Sanders on Tuesday to say they could work together to beat President Donald Trump in the November election.

Speaking after sweeping the first three of Tuesday’s six Democratic primaries, Biden said the two share a “common goal.”

“I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion,” he said.

“Together we’ll defeat Donald Trump… We’ll bring this nation together.”

“Tonight we’re a step closer to restoring decency, dignity, and honor to the White House. That’s our ultimate goal,” Biden said to cheering supporters in Philadelphia, his wife Jill Biden at his side.

Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 10, 2020. PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Vote projections indicated that the former vice president handily captured the Democratic primary in Michigan, the night’s largest prize on the path to the Democratic presidential nomination.

In a state that Sanders won four years ago against Hillary Clinton, early tallies suggested that political moderate Biden defeated the leftist senator by a margin of more than 10 percentage points.

It was the former vice president’s third projected victory of the night, after Mississippi and Missouri, significantly widening his lead in the battle for delegates to the July Democratic National Convention that will decide the party’s challenger to Trump.

“Thank you, Michigan!” Biden tweeted.

Before Tuesday Biden had racked up 670 delegates in earlier primaries, compared to Sanders’s 574.

With more than half the total 57 primary contests still in front of them, a candidate needs to top 1,991 delegates to capture the nomination.

Sanders’s staff pointed out that neither candidate was even halfway to that goal and vowed to fight on.

“More than half of the states in the country have not even voted yet. Nah, it’s not over,” said Nina Turner, the national co-chair of the Sanders campaign.

AFP

Trump Blames Media As US Coronavirus Death Rises To 19

US President Donald Trump has defended his government’s response to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).  Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump has defended the “perfectly coordinated” US response to the coronavirus epidemic Sunday amid heavy criticism over health cuts and strategic blunders that have failed to stem its rapid spread.

The virus has reached 30 US states, killing at least 19 people, while the American capital announced its first case Saturday and 60 million people in California and New York state were under emergency orders.

Trump, who has been accused of peddling misinformation on the outbreak, blamed the media in an early morning tweet for trying to make his government “look bad” as criticism mounted with nearly 500 cases recorded.

“We have a perfectly coordinated and fine-tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus,” Trump tweeted.

“We moved VERY early to close borders to certain areas, which was a Godsend. V.P. is doing a great job. The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to make us look bad. Sad!”

But Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, criticized Trump’s messaging around the outbreak, telling NBC the president “hasn’t communicated the way I would, and the way I might like him to.”

Trump has been heavily rebuked for repeatedly contradicting the advice of his administration’s experts in his public pronouncements about the coronavirus.

 President to blame 

He has downplayed the threat posed by the epidemic, which has killed more than 3,500 people since emerging in China, suggesting cases were “going very substantially down, not up,” falsely pledging that a vaccine would soon be available and claiming without evidence that the official estimate of the death rate was “false.”

From the start of February, the Trump administration focused on cutting off travel from China and imposing quarantines in an effort to keep the virus out of the United States.

Epidemiologists say the initial containment effort may have slowed the arrival of the virus but accuse the White House of wasting time with a strategy concerned more with the political narrative than domestic readiness.

Chief among the complaints has been the lack of testing caused by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developing its own flawed kits, rather than using those approved by the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, critics point to deep CDC cuts and the White House’s removal of a position on the National Security Council for responding to pandemics.

“Many officials have a hand in this mess, but the president is the crucial variable,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a director of the Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance during the Ebola outbreak, wrote in The New York Times on Saturday.

“Errors happen in any crisis. But when a president insists on claiming success irrespective of reality, it becomes much harder for those under him to acknowledge and correct mistakes.”

New York became the latest state over the weekend to declare an emergency as the number of patients there rose to 89.

 Locking down entire cities 

Meanwhile, officials reported that two people at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference attended by Trump and the administration’s coronavirus point man, Vice President Mike Pence, had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC that officials were “accelerating dramatically” on coronavirus testing.

He told Fox News the possibility of following Italy’s example in locking down large sections of the population, or even entire cities, could not be ruled out.

“You don’t want to alarm people but, given the spread we’ve seen, anything is possible,” he said.

A US cruise ship hit by the outbreak was given permission late Saturday to dock in California’s Bay Area on Monday, after reporting 21 infections on board.

Pressed on plans to handle 3,500 people on board the Grand Princess, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson told ABC he didn’t “want to preview the plan right now.”

He said a plan would be in place “within 72 hours” of Pence’s meeting with cruise ship company CEOs on Saturday.

AFP

Trump Treated Worse Than Jesus Before Crucifixion, Says US Lawmaker

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides over Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump as the House votes at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 18, 2019. The US House of Representatives voted 229-198 on Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for obstruction of Congress. The House impeached Trump for abuse of power by a 230-197 vote. The 45th US president is just the third occupant of the White House in US history to be impeached. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

A US Republican lawmaker said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump, undergoing impeachment proceedings led by Democrats, has been treated worse than Jesus before his crucifixion, causing a stir on social media.

“I want you to keep this in mind: When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” Congressman Barry Loudermilk, who hails from the deeply conservative Bible Belt state of Georgia, told fellow lawmakers.

“During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats afforded this president and this process,” Loudermilk said, referring to the Roman governor of Judea who approved the death sentence.

Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, shot back that the president had been “given the opportunity to come and testify before the Judiciary Committee… He declined to do so.”

“Trump to Jesus” was soon trending on Twitter, but Loudermilk was hardly the only lawmaker to reference Jesus’ crucifixion during the day’s proceedings.

From the House floor, Republican congressman Fred Keller of Pennsylvania quoted Jesus’ words from the cross — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” — in referencing those voting against the president.

James Martin, a Jesuit priest and US author posted on Twitter that he believed there were some differences in Trump and Jesus’ treatment: “Pilate had Jesus beaten and whipped, thrown into jail overnight, marched through the streets carrying his cross, and then nailed to that cross until he died.”

“Comparing the treatment received by the President to what Jesus suffered is absurd. Also, only one of them is sinless,” he said.

Charlotte Clymer, press secretary for US LGBT civil rights organization Human Rights Campaign, said that the president “might be confused because of Trump’s tendency to turn anything into whine.”

According to the Bible, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding.

The bitterly divided House of Representatives voted late Wednesday to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The matter now heads to trial in the Senate, where Trump’s Republicans hold a 53-47 seat edge, and are expected to exonerate him.

Trump Impeachment: Evidence Of Misconduct ‘Overwhelming’ – House Report

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 20, 2019, Representative Mike Conaway, R-TX, during the House Intelligence Committee hearing, into President Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to tie US aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on November 19, 2019.
Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

 

The evidence for impeaching President Donald Trump for misconduct in office and obstruction is “overwhelming,” the final report on the House investigation into the US leader said Tuesday.

The 300-page report, meant as the basis for articles of impeachment, accused Trump of endangering national security and of an unparalleled effort to stifle the probe into claims he pressured Ukraine for dirt on a Democratic election rival.

“The impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the US government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection” next year, the report said.

“The president placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election process, and endangered US national security.”

READ ALSO: Democrat Kamala Harris Ends Her 2020 White House Bid

The report, which will form the basis for the House Judiciary Committee to draw up formal charges, or articles of impeachment, in the coming weeks, spells out two key areas of wrongdoing by Trump.

In the first instance, it alleged, Trump, conditioned military aid and a face-to-face meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Kiev opening several politically-motivated investigations, including into former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2020 election race.

Secondly, the report said, Trump actively sought to obstruct the congressional probe, refusing to provide documents to investigators, preventing witnesses from appearing, and threatening some of those who did appear.

“The evidence of the President’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress,” said the report.

“No other president has flouted the Constitution and power of Congress to conduct oversight to this extent.”

In a statement, White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham dismissed both the report and the investigation led by House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff.

“At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump,” she said.

The report “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”

AFP

Dismay As US Formally Starts Pullout From Paris Climate Accord

Photo combination of US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron

 

The United States has formally notified the United Nations that it is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, triggering expressions of concern and regret from other major powers on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump went ahead with the pullout despite mounting evidence of the reality and impact of climate change, with September the fourth month in a row with near- or record-breaking temperatures.

Washington presented its withdrawal letter to the UN on the first possible date under the accord negotiated by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, making the world’s largest economy the sole outlier from the agreement.

The US will be officially out on November 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election in which Trump is seeking a second term on appeals to the white working class.

Announcing the move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Trump’s rationale in 2017 that the accord would disadvantage US businesses.

“It was America that would suffer the straitjacket,” Pompeo told the Fox Business network. “It would be quintessentially unfair to the American people and to the American workers.”

Pompeo said in a statement that the United States would advocate a “realistic and pragmatic model” that included renewable energy but preserved a role for fossil fuels.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who unsuccessfully tried to persuade Trump to stay in the accord named for his nation’s capital, lamented the decision.

“We regret this and it makes the Franco-Chinese partnership on climate and biodiversity even more necessary,” the French presidency said as Macron visited China, the world’s largest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

Beijing also expressed “regret” over Washington’s decision ahead of the planned signing Wednesday of a joint document on climate by President Xi Jinping and Macron.

“We hope the US can take more responsibility, and do more to contribute a driving force to the multilateral cooperation process, instead of adding negative energy,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Russia warned that the US withdrawal seriously undermined the Paris accord.

“Without the largest economy in the world, it’s very, very hard to talk about any kind of climate agreement,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The United States, the number-two emitter, is still planning to attend this month’s COP climate negotiations in Spain, according to a State Department official.

 Trump rolls back action

Pompeo in his statement pointed to a 13 percent US reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2017 even as the economy grew.

But Trump, who took office in 2017, has pledged to turn back environmental regulations as states such as California and New York try to take stronger action on their own.

Trump has sought to block California from setting tighter standards on car emissions and moved to let states set their own standards on existing coal-fired power plants.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the Trump administration has “once again thumbed its nose at our allies, turned a blind eye to the facts and further politicized the world’s greatest environmental challenge.”

Former vice president-turned-climate champion Al Gore deplored Trump’s decision — but said that a new president could re-enter the Paris accord within 30 days.

“No one person or party can stop our momentum to solve the climate crisis, but those who try will be remembered for their complacency, complicity and mendacity in attempting to sacrifice the planet for their greed,” Gore said.

The Paris accord set a goal of limiting temperature rises to well within two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, a goal that scientists say is vital to check the worst damage from global warming such as increasing droughts, rising floods and intensifying storms.

Limited diplomatic effect

Contrary to some predictions, Trump’s decision did not trigger a domino effect of withdrawals by countries such as Brazil and Australia.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an ideological ally of Trump, has belittled environmentalists but has held off on threats to withdraw from the Paris accord, with the European Union requiring adherence as a condition for a major trade deal.

Trump has cast the climate accord as elitist, saying that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

But a Washington Post poll last month found that even in his own party he faces growing opposition on the issue, with 60 percent of Republicans agreeing with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity.

AFP

Trump Wants To Meet Whistleblower In Ukraine Scandal

President Donald Trump said Sunday he wants to meet the anonymous whistleblower at the center of the scandal threatening his presidency.

Trump has been relatively quiet this weekend but in a series of evening tweets, he also blasted Democratic lawmakers and the media as he railed against the impeachment inquiry launched last week.

That probe was triggered by the release of a rough transcript of a July phone call in which Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a potential Democratic candidate in the 2020 US election.

He also enlisted his attorney general and personal lawyer to help in that effort.

The whistleblower filed a complaint over the contents of the conversation back in August, saying Trump had tried to get a foreign power to interfere in a US election for his own gain.

“Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called ‘Whistleblower,’ represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way,” Trump tweeted.

He also said the de facto leader of the congressional inquiry, Adam Schiff, lied to Congress last week about what Trump said to the president of Ukraine and should be punished.

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber,” Trump tweeted.

“He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason,” he wrote.

AFP